If you are a sports fan, and you happen to have a friend who owns a camera of some sort, or there happens to be a camera in your immediate vicinity, you have undoubtedly been tapped by a major network by now to put on a suit and tie (or, ladies, a sensible pantsuit) and go in front of that camera and talk about the upcoming NCAA Tournament. You will have probably done the pre-requisite "guessing of a first upset" and "broken down the one-seeds," for this is what people who comment on the NCAA Tournament in the 72 hours post-selection-show do. You will have probably made some comments about the selections, and whether you agreed with the selection committee or did not, and everyone is probably in awe of your incredible basketball prowess.
If any of the above is the case, the following information about the South Region will come as no surprise. For the rest of us, it may not be a terrible idea to take a closer look at the people and storylines you're likely to encounter in this region over the next several days.
The Locations (First Round)
New Orleans - Thursday: Notre Dame (6) vs. Old Dominion (11), Baylor (3) vs. Sam Houston State (14)
Providence - Thursday: Villanova (2) vs. Robert Morris (15), Richmond (7) vs. Saint Mary's (10)
Jacksonville - Friday: Duke (1) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop (play-in game tomorrow), California (8) vs. Louisville (9)
Spokane - Friday: Purdue (4) vs. Siena (13), Texas A&M (5) vs. Utah State (12)
Did Duke Deserve This Region? Many are harping that Coach K and his Blue Devils have the cushiest of regions in the South, considering their number two seed Villanova didn't even make the semifinals of their tournament and by all accounts is the weakest two in the entire tournament. But as we all know, it's very, very important for Duke to stay as close to home as possible, just in case Coach K forgets something and needs to run home. Some believe Baylor could be a dark horse to unseat Duke but...oh, c'mon, you're not gonna hear any of that on the love fest found on every channel. So let's just pretend they're going to win the region and all act super-surprised when they get upset, okay?
Cal vs. Louisville should be a great game. Cal won Pac-10 regular season play but couldn't hang on to beat Washington in the Pac-10 Finals. Louisville is a pale imitation of what it was this time last year. That said, this eight and nine seed matchup could produce a potential joker in the deck for a later round. Cal's Jerome Randle is the school's new all-time leading scorer, and if he's allowed to perform, the Cards have a tough time. If he's shut down, Louisville's cast should handle the Golden Bears easily. Either way, both teams have potential to play above their seeding, so don't be surprised if whoever comes out of this game throws a wrench into the South's proceedings.
Siena is way overhyped as a pre-packaged Cinderella team. Listen. In the next week you're going to hear a ton of people on television and at your workplace telling you to "mark it down!" that Siena is a lock to beat Purdue. This is because a.) Purdue's beatable, and b.) none of those people have ever actually watched Siena play, they've just heard things about them. The truth is that the Saints may have run off with their conference, but that's because the MAAC was terrible this year. They also looked really good against Butler a few weekends ago in a bracket-buster. But if you watched the MAAC tournament, you'd have seen Siena struggle with Manhattan, Rider and Fairfield. I'm not believing the hype. But maybe it's just me.
Richmond can beat Villanova. We're all used to seeing the spiders in a twelve seed or higher, and you have to take into account the psychology of not realizing a team you're used to only seeing eek into the tournament suddenly be a contender. That's exactly the role Richmond's in right now, and Villanova seems to be fading toward the end of this season. If you don't think Villanova's beatable, you clearly didn't watch the last three weeks of their season, where they've lost five of their last seven games. If the Wildcats underestimated Marquette, there's no chance they don't underestimate Richmond.
Did you ever see Godzilla Vs. Rodan? Because that's what it's going be when Notre Dame's 6'8" Luke Harangody faces Old Dominion's 6'10" Gerald Lee in the first round to see who can lumber the best. Those guys are gonna look like two runaway Mardi Gras floats. Let's hope St. Mary's 6'11", 265-pound Omar Samhan doesn't get wind of this or this thing's going to look like a scene from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Utah State vs. Texas A&M will confuse you. This is because they are both called the Aggies. Texas A&M is maroon and Utah State is blue. Don't listen to Vern Lundquist, because he will be losing his mind trying to call this game.
If you think Sam Houston State will beat Baylor, you probably go to Sam Houston State or play on the team. You should visit the school's official site here and chat with your friends/teammates on the message boards there.
There's an Olive Garden on Universal Boulevard in Providence. You need me to go ahead and make you reservations for Saturday night, Robert Morris? We'll see if they can turn on the games for you in the bar there.
So how does it end?
Sure, Duke has the easiest path out of its region -- but for the sake of argument, let's also point out that Duke's the weakest of all the one seeds. That would signify that they're not a total lock to get out of the South. Who is it, then? Might be better to say who it's not. It's probably not Villanova and it's probably not Purdue. And no, stop it already -- it's not Siena. No one's really talking about the Baylor Bears, who could stage a bit of a coup, and Notre Dame's actually a little better than you might think. This is the wackiest region, so let's just pick the wackiest possibility:
See you in the Final Four, Old Dominion!